2015-10-10 / News

Arnold Dock Will Stay Open After Settlement

By Stephanie Fortino

An ongoing legal dispute between Union Terminal Piers and Main Dock 7271 over access to Arnold Transit’s dock at Mackinac Island is reaching conclusion after more than a year in 11th Circuit Court. An agreement was reached Thursday, September 3, and public access to the Arnold dock is assured.

Union Terminal Piers (UTP) will pay an undisclosed cash settlement plus the deed to a store lot on Main Street in exchange for access to the street and its riparian rights in the water, both of which the company lost in a land deal turned bad.

The land in question was the property at the head of the Arnold Dock, which UTP owner Jim Wynn sold in 2013 to developers Ira Green and Melanie Libby, operating as Main Dock 7271, LLC. As part of that deal, an easement through the property was to allow public access between the dock and Main Street for a $250,000 annual fee. Mr. Wynn failed to pay this fee in 2013, thereupon Main Dock 7271 blocked access to the dock.

The Rippe family of Cincinnati, Ohio, large investors in UTP, got rid of Mr. Wynn and took over the operation as Mackinac Island Ferry Capital in spring 2014, and the dock access has been in court since May of that year. Judge George Mertz of 46th Circuit Court in Otsego County, who has overseen the case, ordered the settlement, which was reached at a 7-hour meeting September 17.

A temporary restraining order kept the dock open last summer and it was continued through this summer to allow Arnold Transit to conduct operations from its main passenger facility. And last June, UTP agreed to escrow 20% of Arnold Transit’s gross revenues each week while the matter was in court, and that money has now been surrendered to Main Dock 7271 as part of the settlement.

UTP also paid the $250,000 easement fee in 2014, but under the settlement, future payments will not be required.

Ms. Libby would not disclose the cash settlement amount, but told The St. Ignace News that it included payments that were previously agreed upon during earlier settlement talks.

In addition to the cash settlement, Ms. Libby and Mr. Green also received the property and building at 7389 Main Street that houses the Decked Out clothing shop.

And in addition to access across the Main Dock 7271 property, UTP will receive a one-foot-wide strip of that parcel that abuts the Arnold Dock. The strip of land will give UTP back its riparian rights for the Arnold Dock, which the company lost when it sold the property in 2013. Riparian rights are needed to acquire state bottomlands leases, which are needed to build or have a dock.

The Mackinac Island City Council will have to approve the strip of land as a lot split, which will be one foot wide and run the entire length of the Main Dock property along the dock. At the settlement hearing, Mackinac Island Mayor Margaret Doud and city attorney Tom Evashevski agreed to help facilitate the lot split.

Blocking access to the dock, she said, was a legal maneuver meant to force UTP into fulfilling its obligations in the sale. With a bicycle rental operation and other businesses under development there, she said, “it’s for everyone’s best interest to have that dock open and busy. We never had any desire to see that dock closed.”

In 2013, the City of Mackinac Island also negotiated certain development rights on the property at the head of the dock, issuing Ms. Libby 90 rental bicycle licenses and allowing Mr. Green to transfer 25 of his rental bike licenses from Hoban Street to Main Street. The conservation easement has not been officially recorded yet because the city is still waiting for clear title on the property. Mr. Green and Ms. Libby valued the development rights for the property at $2 million.

With the Arnold Dock issue nearing resolution, the city can be expected to turn its attention back to getting control of the Union Terminal Piers Coal Dock, which it considers strategic as a freight dock.

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